The Capitol Report | April 6th, 2017

Missouri House Finalizes State Budget

As the legislature gears up for this session’s home stretch, the House has continued to bring beneficial reforms to the state of Missouri. Last week, the House Budget Committee finalized their budget proposal and passed all of the appropriation bills out of committee. Chairman Scott Fitzpatrick and members of the House Budget Committee worked tirelessly to find solutions that would both meet Missouri’s financial obligations and benefit the state as a whole. The budget committee was able to fully fund Missouri’s K-12 Foundation Formula for the first time since 2005. With a fully-funded foundation formula, the legislature is ensuring that each school district receives the necessary funding to provide a quality education for students.

There were many difficult decisions made during the budget process. Despite a budget shortfall, the House was able to protect services that help Missouri’s most vulnerable citizens. The House GOP created the Senior Services Protection Fund, which is a dedicated fund used to provide vital services, such as in home health care and nursing home services, to Missouri’s most vulnerable. By creating this fund, the House GOP is protecting our most vulnerable citizens while crafting a fiscally responsible budget.

This week, House members discussed and debated the Fiscal Year 2018 state operating budget for several hours before giving final approval to the $27.7 billion spending plan and sending it to the Senate. House members faced the challenge of creating a fiscally responsible budget that invests in the state’s priorities while also dealing with the reality of sluggish revenue growth. Not only were lawmakers able to bridge a $500 million shortfall in the budget while still making record investments in education, they were also able leave $200 million on the bottom line to allow for emergency spending needs.

The House-approved spending plan also emphasizes transparency by eliminating “E”s from the budget. The “E”s represents an open-ended spending limit on funds in which legislators expect money beyond what they allocate might be needed before the next budget is created.

Part of the work done by the House Budget Committee and House members was to find additional dollars to restore cuts proposed by the governor. The budget chairman noted the House was able to restore many of the spending cuts proposed by the governor to balance the budget, and House members did it while spending less than the total amount recommended by the governor in his spending plan.

You may read in more detail about what is happening at your State Capitol below.

As always, I will work diligently for you as your State Representative.

-Jason

 

House Approves Fiscal Year 2018 Spending Plan

House members discussed and debated the Fiscal Year 2018 state operating budget for several hours on both Tuesday and Thursday this week before giving final approval to the $27.7 billion spending plan and sending it to the Senate. The House version of the budget includes record levels of funding for public K-12 education; fully funding the school foundation formula for the first time. It also restores a proposed cut to school transportation funding, and adds additional dollars to higher education above what was recommended by the governor. The plan approved by the House also restores a cut proposed by the governor that would have impacted 20,000 seniors and disabled Missourians who currently qualify for state-funded in-home care and nursing home services.

House members faced the challenge of creating a fiscally responsible budget that invests in the state’s priorities while also dealing with the reality of sluggish revenue growth. Not only were lawmakers able to bridge a $500 million shortfall in the budget while still making record investments in education, they were also able leave $200 million on the bottom line to allow for emergency spending needs.

The House-approved spending plan also emphasizes transparency by eliminating “E”s from the budget. The “E”s represents an open-ended spending limit on funds in which legislators expect money beyond what they allocate might be needed before the next budget is created.an example, the budget eliminates the “E” from the state’s legal expense fund, which lawmakers later learned had paid out millions in settlements for harassment lawsuits. The fund now has an exact dollar figure for its funding, which will require agencies to come before the legislature to explain why they need additional dollars for court settlements.

Part of the work done by the House Budget Committee and House members was to find additional dollars to restore cuts proposed by the governor. The budget chairman noted the House was able to restore many of the spending cuts proposed by the governor to balance the budget, and House members did it while spending less than the total amount recommended by the governor in his spending plan.

Highlights include:

  • An additional $48 million that will fully fund the School Foundation Formula for public K-12 education for the first time. The FY 2018 budget proposal appropriates more than $6 billion in total for the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.
  • Lawmakers found an additional $25 million to restore a cut proposed by the governor to public school transportation.
  • House members also restored $21 million in cuts proposed by the governor to higher education. Two-year and four-year institutions with the exception of the University of Missouri system will see a portion of the proposed cut restored. The UM System will receive additional dollars above the governor’s recommendation in the form of funding for collaborative projects with other higher education institutions.
  • The House version of the budget restores $600,000 in funding from a proposed cut to independent living centers, which help people with disabilities to increase their independence and their opportunity to participate in day-to-day life within their communities.
  • The budget plan passed by the House also restores $1.4 million in funding for brain injury services provided by the Department of Health that have been withheld in previous budget cycles.
  • House members restored funding to help implement the system of voter identification that was approved by Missouri voters last year. The House version of the budget includes nearly $3 million in funding for the program.
  • The House budget plan also restores half of a cut proposed by the governor to reimbursement rates for Medicaid providers.

Other funding highlights for the FY 2018 spending plan include:

  • $12.3 million increase for early childhood special education.
  • An additional $1.3 million in funding for the state’s Area Agencies on Aging for use in the Meals on Wheels program that provides meal assistance to seniors.
  • An increase of $15.4 million in funding for the state employee pension system, which brings the plan to a record level of state support.
  • $157 million to fund the Excellence in Mental Health Pilot Project. Missouri is one of a handful of states participating in the program to increase access to community mental health and substance abuse treatment services.
  • $1 million in additional funding for an opioid abuse prevention grant program.
  • $1 million for grants to volunteer fire fighter associations to help offset the increasing costs of workers’ compensation premiums.
  • $250,000 to upgrade the state’s Amber Alert system to allow it to be integrated with the Silver Alert System and the Blue Alert System.
  • $500,000 added to pilot a program to promote STEM education in middle schools.
  • $250,000 to be utilized for tutoring grants for math and science in provisionally accredited school districts.
  • $4 million in additional funding for Bright Flight scholarships.
  • $62 million in new funding for road construction.
  • $25 million new federal dollars for rail, port, and freight program expansion.
  • The House version of the budget continues to eliminate funding for abortion services.

The budget bills now move to the Senate for consideration. The budget must be completed by Friday, May 5, which gives the House and Senate one month to reach an agreement on the final spending plan.

Prohibiting Red-Light Cameras in Missouri (HB 275)

The House has approved legislation that would prohibit Missouri cities from putting red-light cameras in place to catch traffic violations. Lawmakers gave first-round approval to the bill, sponsored by Rep. Spencer, in an effort to put an end to the practice of municipalities using the automated systems to raise revenues.

The bill would prohibit municipalities in Missouri from utilizing automated traffic systems to issue speeding tickets and fines for running red lights. The ban on red-light cameras would ensure motorists receive any ticket for a traffic violation in person from a law enforcement officer within 24 hours of the violation. The bill would also require cities that have red-light cameras in place to end any contracts with companies that operate the systems within one year.

Supporters say the bill will prevent the current practice of predatory taxation by traffic fine. They note that much of the revenue generated by the fines actually go out of state to the companies operating the cameras. Supporters also say the cameras are an infringement upon the people’s freedom.

Prescription Drug Monitoring Program Bill Heads to the Senate (HBs 90 & 68)

The House gave final approval this week to legislation, sponsored by Rep. Rehder, that would implement a prescription drug tracking system in an effort to prevent opioid abuse in Missouri. If approved by both chambers and signed into law, the bill would make Missouri the 50th and final state to implement such a system to prevent the practice of doctor shopping to obtain multiple prescriptions for valuable and addictive medications.

The bill now moves to the Senate where similar bills have hit a roadblock in previous sessions. The Senate has already approved its own version of the bill that differs significantly from the House version. However, the sponsor of the Senate bill, who has traditionally opposed the House version, recently announced that he will support the bill sent over from the House. His only request is that the House version of the bill be amended to include a provision that physicians be required to use the database.

Proponents of the House plan will now work to implement the compromise to secure final passage of the bill. The bill has already received approval from a Senate committee and appears on track to receive discussion on the Senate floor in the coming weeks.

The bill would require the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services to establish and maintain a program to monitor the prescribing and dispensing of all Schedule II through Schedule IV controlled substances. The bill would require information on these drugs being prescribed and dispensed to be reported within 24 hours. By the year 2020 the information would be updated in real time.

House Moves to Create State Innovation Waiver Task Force (HB 780)

House members have approved legislation that would create a task force charged with developing a health care reform plan for Missouri. Under the bill, sponsored by Rep. Hill, the State Innovation Waiver Task Force would be created for the purpose of developing a plan that will allow Missouri to obtain a state innovation waiver from the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

In order to obtain a waiver, a state must demonstrate that its proposed health insurance reforms are as comprehensive and affordable as the federal requirements for insurance sold in its state. States receiving grant waivers may receive federal assistance to operate their reform programs in an amount that is equivalent to the amount the federal government would have paid for individuals enrolled in the state.

Supporters say it is important that Missouri establish the task force to find a sustainable health care system that improves the level of care at a more affordable rate.

Honoring Fire Fighters and First Responders

Hundreds of first responders from around the state made their way to Jefferson City on Wednesday to participate in Missouri’s annual Fire Fighters Day. The event is meant to recognize the importance of work done by fire fighters and first responders to keep Missouri families and communities safe.

The event at the state Capitol building included comments from the governor, who said, “First responders sacrifice not for glory or for power or for perks, but they do it because they believe in their commitment to serving their friends, their families, their neighbors and their fellow citizens.” The first responders in attendance also heard from other public officials, who thanked them for their service.

Missouri’s fire service includes more than 24,000 career and volunteer responders working across more than 850 departments. Members of Missouri’s fire service not only respond to fires and medical emergencies, but also play key roles in other emergencies, including complex technical rescues, hazardous materials incidents, natural disasters and homeland security special details. Fire fighters also perform many other critical tasks, including fire safety inspections and working to educate the public about fire safety and prevention.

Observing Crime Victims’ Rights Week

Lawmakers observed Crime Victims’ Rights Week in honor of the continuing efforts of crime victims and victim advocates to make Missouri safer and support their neighbors. The week of April 2 to 8 was designated as victims’ rights week by a proclamation issued by Gov. Eric Greitens.

Legislators and visitors observed the week with a ceremony at the Capitol on April 3. The theme for this year – Strength, Resilience, Justice – reflects a vision for the future in which all victims are strengthened by the response they receive, organizations are resilient in response to challenges, and communities are able to seek collective justice and healing. The ceremony in the Capitol building honored the efforts of crime victims, survivors, and victim advocates.

Autism Awareness Month

Members of the Missouri House paused this week to acknowledge the thousands of Missouri families who continue to need support as they raise children with autism. April is Autism Awareness Month in Missouri and April 2 was World Autism Awareness Day.

Autism is the fastest growing developmental disability in the United States, affecting more than three million people. Autism is the result of a neurological disorder that affects the normal functioning of the human brain. Autism can result in significant lifelong impairment of an individual’s ability to learn, develop healthy interactive behaviors, and understand verbal as well as nonverbal communication. Early diagnosis and care is vital to allow individuals with autism to lead happy, healthy lives, and to achieve their greatest potential.

Capitol VisitsMU Undergraduate Research Day

I enjoyed visiting with MU student Morgan Fryman of Steelville and S&T student Shane Lawson of St. James on their Undergraduate Research Day projects. Morgan shared with me some fascinating facts on the Fibonacci sequence and Shane shared information on MOF coating and its impact on CO2 adsorption.

Rolla HS Rotary Bill Wiggins&Travis CurtisI had a very nice visit with Bill Wiggins of the Rotary Club of Rolla and Rolla high school teacher Travis Curtis who brought five Rolla high school students to the Capitol for their annual Student Government Day.

I am committed to serve the constituents of the 120th District, so please feel free to contact my office anytime at 573-751-1688. Your District 120 Capitol Office is 201 W Capitol Ave, Rm 415-B, Jefferson City, MO 65101. If you wish to unsubscribe from this report, please email Dylan Bryant at dylan.bryant@house.mo.gov

 

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